Making Neutrals with a Secondary Triad

April 8, 2022


Update: May 14, 2022. The paper used for this portrait was from a pad purchased in 2000-02. Magnani Portofino paper has been “revamped.”

The current version of this paper is NOT one I would recommend for wet media work. You can see a post reviewing the currently available paper on this blog on May 16, 2022. 

In today’s video I paint a black and white dog using a green-orange-purple secondary triad. (The still image is here at the top of the post. The video is at the bottom of this post.)

That pigment selection is a stretch from using my beloved PB60 and Burnt Sienna complementary pair for such subjects, i.e. black and white dogs. But it’s good to push ourselves.

I have been talking and sharing work from this palette on my Patreon site, for the past month or so; with some of the resultant images showing up here in different posts. 

So it seemed inevitable that I would sketch a black and white dog with this triad. (For those of you who haven’t been regularly following my blog, I had two black and white Alaskan Malamute bitches, Emma and Dottie, whom I used to sketch, typically with PB60 and Burnt Sienna.)

While it’s always more fun to draw a live dog, current situations dictated that I draw from a photo. You can see Kelley Luckett’s inspiration photo at this link. (Museum app by Sktchy)

I hope you’ll enjoy seeing this video, watching me work, and learning a little bit about how I use my watercolors.

Take some time today to push yourself out of your comfort range. It’s great fun.

If the video doesn’t play for some reason you can view it on my Vimeo site.

It is also up on my Youtube Channel (RozStendahl).


    • TedB
    • April 10, 2022

    I really like what you are doing with this secondary triad to make a neutral gray/black. For many years I used alizarin and a dark green, but fell in love with PB60 and burnt sienna ever since I took my first class with you (7 years ago ?) I use it now without a thought to ever trying anything different. I have none of the pigments you use in this demo (and I am not going out and buy any), but I do have several in that triad, and your demo here is plenty incentive to try some. Thanks for this, Roz.

    1. Reply

      Ted, you know me I will never give up my PB60 and Burnt Sienna. But even when Em and Dot were alive I would experiment with other red/oranges and that led me to some fun with English Red and Venetian Red when mixing with PB60. The first gives a more dull purple, the VR is more brownish in the brands I’ve tested. And I’ve had some fun with that.

      But for me the triad has been really interesting coming from that place as a starting place. I’ve had to work at mixing the purple to get it they way I want it and then neutralize that with the yellow green, or if the purple is leaning cool I can neutralize it with the orange and that yields some interesting neutrals.

      I find it a little more of a mental stretch which is fun. But I do have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t my favorite complementary pair which is easier to quickly change temperature with.

      I’ll keep playing with it.

      I’m glad you’re not going to go out and buy any new paints. I know you’ll have perfectly suitable ones already on hand. I hope that you do give the secondary triad a try. Let me hear how it goes! (Has it been seven years!!! It was always a pleasure to have your keen mind in class.)

    • egl
    • April 22, 2022

    Why don’t you have any obvious problems with blooms? Are you managing the water in your brush carefully, is it because you’re using gouache, or is it something else?

    Loyal Student

    1. Reply

      Well I’m glad you qualified your comment with “you don’t have any obvious problems with blooms” because I do have blooms. (emphasis mine)

      Here’s the list of things that is going on, and since you’re a past student you’ll have heard me say all this before, but for people just tuning in.

      1. I work in a bunch of different styles and frankly because of my eye surgery and the protracted downsizing I have not had time to work in a more painterly (no ink) style for a number of years now, so I’m not really concerned if I have blooms or not. I’m actually painting with a desire for the strokes to show and create texture, but that’s an hour discussion as to why just in this sentence.

      2. When I’m sketching I let areas dry and work in other areas and don’t come back into earlier areas until the paper is dry enough so that blooms won’t be an issue.

      3. I do control my water very intentionally. Mostly I do this because I like to move from transparent to opaque passages, and to do that you need to mind your water with a bit of vigilance.

      4. When I do go to opaque passages that can often hide blooms (though that is not my intention for using paint opaquely).

      5. I like to lift off, and if you’re using non-staining pigments (which I wasn’t in this sketch, but just saying) you can easily lift off early areas on quality paper, thus eliminating some blooms, if that’s an issue to you. (I lift off paint to get back to lighter values and highlight areas, mainly because of field habits and also the avid use of Claybord™ which easily allows lifting off. I don’t lift off to eliminate blooms—but you could if you thought about it.)

      6. Using watercolor opaquely, and using gouache “correctly” as an opaque paint, eliminates blooms because there is too much paint on the surface to allow them. I’m not using gouache in this painting. (Note: I use high quality Schmincke Gouache which is pigment rich—and I often use it “translucently” and if you do that you’re just as likely to get blooms as with watercolor—so we are back to controlling water and pigment and drying time.)
      7. I was working on a quality gelatin sized paper and it is easier to control blooms on gelatin sized paper. (Though some unfortunate folks who are too young to have learned to paint on gelatin sized paper might just complain that I’m just stating a preference. Since painting on gelatin sized paper is demonstrably more smooth and flowing I feel it’s more than a preference and hope they can all try gelatin sized paper at some point in their lives.)

      SO IF YOU look carefully in this painting, which is all watercolor (with some transparent and some opaque passages [i.e., more pigment and less water, same watercolor paint]) you can see one bloom in easy evidence: the bottom left black cheek area, just even with the base of the nose you can see the bloom line. This means I went in too soon and that area was still wet before I darkened it up.

      In general all the “traditional” watercolorists I know will argue that you need to mix your values accurately and hit them first time and resist ANY URGES to go back in, however strong those urges may be, because the restatement always looks rougher and less pleasing to the viewer.

      I would probably even agree with that for the most part. And certainly when working large expanses.

      However, there’s that matter of not currently working in a painterly manner and in also trying to be “transparent” no pun intended with strokes and texture, AND having been totally ruined by my fast and furious field work, so I go in whenever I think I can get away with it and I do this taking full and gleeful ownership of anything, including blooms, that may occur.

      For all these reasons and some I’m sure I’m forgetting, I either am not plagued by blooms, or I have hidden them in some way as I strive to do something else on the page (as described above), or, we can put it all down to good clean living. (HAHAHAHAHAHAAH)

        • egl
        • April 23, 2022

        Thank you for the as-always informative reply.

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